Interactivity and the Quiet Page

So it’s been a couple of big weeks for digital text (eBooks, eTexts, iBooks and more)! After my last post I wanted to expand a little on a couple of key points relating to digital texts that have significant importance in my view.

It’s not interactive

The first point relates to the buzz term “interactive”. You’re going to hear it a lot when referencing digital texts – “check out the interactive features”. The reality is that it’s not interactive at all. Pushing a button is not an interaction because there is no inter, the button doesn’t push back or start a discussion. It is an action, in much the same way as turning a page is an action, so in that sense print has been “interactive” all along. 99% of the “interactive” features available today are simple actions or manipulations, not interactions at all. I think it’s wrong to sell the technology this way because it confuses and clouds what the real benefits of digital texts are – that they are multimedia, multimodal, multiliteracy objects – that can be read, viewed, listened and actioned. Selling the benefits of this passive “interaction” also undercuts the big feature of this next generation of digital texts, which is real interactivity. Not with the text, but with people – other readers and students collaboratively reading, questioning, highlighting, notetaking, marking up. Think about the benefits of being able to tweet directly from a book, a referenced link and hastag subject – and have the replies displayed directly inside the book. That is interactive.

The Quiet Page

The other point I wanted to make was the need for the ‘quiet page’. While a media rich, action rich, interactive digital texts sound amazing we must not forget the power of the words themselves. In many cases it is more important to concentrate on the words rather than the video, graph or photo – as they explain rather than simply illustrate. Therefore digital texts need the ability to turn off features. A while ago when I started thinking about this I imagined a digital text as a layered object, where at its heart was the quiet page – just the text. I heard this term the “quiet page” on a radio interview so sorry fpr not quoting the source, but i think it encapsulates perfectly the concept of distraction free text. From that base level you could turn on and off different layers. Each ‘feature’ would have its own layer – photos, videos, actions, interactive, notes, bookmarks, widgets – and these could be turned on and off as the user desired. This would be perfectly suited to touch devices that can handle gestures where one can manipulate and perform an action physically – dialling in the layers as desired. I am really excited about this next generation of digital texts – I really can’t wait to start playing with the new iBooks format or my new Kindle touch I ordered today.

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